Splits, whether you choose to do front splits or center splits, provide a real challenge to your flexibility. In both types of splits, you rely on a combination of gravity and your body weight to produce the stretch. With passive stretches like the splits, the danger always exists of injuring your muscles. To prevent injury, make sure you're adequately warmed up before sliding into the splits. And while a pre-split warm up might not transform you into Gabrielle Douglas or Paloma Herrera, it will make your stretching sessions more effective.
Perform between 5 to 10 minutes of light cardio, such as brisk walking or jogging, to start. This activity will increase your heart rate and the amount of blood flowing to your muscles as well as raise your core body temperature. As your muscles become warmer, they become more pliable.
Do 10 to 12 repetitions of a dynamic stretch that targets the same muscles as the splits. In dynamic stretches, you move a part of your body in a controlled manner through a range of motion. This type of movement will prepare your muscles for the demands of a split and will relax the muscles you want to lengthen. One dynamic stretch that targets the hamstrings, quadriceps and iliopsoas -- the muscles that are stretched in the front split -- is the leg swing. From a standing position, swing one leg forward and backward, focusing on relaxing your hip and thigh. If your goal is the center split, swing your leg side to side in front of your body to target your inner thigh muscles.
Slide slowly into your front or center split. Focus on relaxing into the stretch. While holding the stretch, focus on breathing into your muscles so they relax and lengthen.
- Gymnasts, dancers and cheerleaders need considerable flexibility during their main workouts. Because of this, these types of athletes can benefit from doing static stretches like the splits as part of a comprehensive warm-up. When it comes to flexibility training, however, every woman is different. Keep your goals in mind when designing your training program. If you primarily run, participate in team sports or lift weights, save your splits for the end of your workouts. After doing your main workout, your muscles will be warm and ready to stretch with the splits. Also, your performance won't suffer due to the energy expended during static stretching.
- Before beginning a new exercise program, consult with your health care professional, especially if you've been inactive for an extended period of time or if you suffer from a chronic health issue.
- Splits should never cause pain. If you experience pain in any muscle, reduce the intensity of the stretch until you feel a gentle stretching sensation.
- Human Kinetics: Types of Stretches
- IDEA Health & Fitness Association: Stretching -- A Research Retrospective
- American College of Sports Medicine: Quantity and Quality of Exercise for Developing and Maintaining Cardiorespiratory, Musculoskeletal, and Neuromotor Fitness in Apparently Healthy Adults -- Guidance for Prescribing Exercise
- Human Kinetics: Experts Debate Benefits of Stretching During Warm-ups
- Stretching and Flexibility; Brad Appleton
- Jupiterimages/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images